The Senate Armed Services Committee wants to ensure the Department of Defense can take advantage of the next generation of wireless technology, 5G.

The committee completed its annual defense policy bill this week. Details regarding the specifics of the bill are scarce given the Senate conducts this process behind closed doors, but a summary of the bill released May 23 said the panel included language that “highlights the importance of establishing secure fifth-generation (5G) wireless network technologies for the warfighter and provides funding to start this effort at two Air Force locations.”

No further information was included.

Pentagon officials and members of Congress have been increasingly concerned with China’s investment in the 5G marketplace. Specifically, leaders are worried that if China controls the majority of the global 5G network, the Chinese government can use that network to spy on the communications that cross the network. Worse, some fear that in a conflict or tension, China could cut off communications to certain areas as leverage.

According to the Defense Innovation Board’s April 2019 report on 5G, this new network will “produce a step-change improvement in data speed, volume, and latency (delay in data transfer) over fourth generation (4G and 4G LTE) networks.”

Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters during a May 10 briefing that Pentagon officials are developing a 5G strategy.

“The goal,” she said, “is to ensure there is understanding domestically with industry, our interagency partners, Congress, the American public, and with our international partners that secure telecommunications networks are critical to national security.”

She added that “5G networks are expected to be more than 100 times faster than current networks. The improvements in command and control and situational awareness tools will be significant, and not just the speed but the resiliency.”

Lord added that recent studies from the Defense Innovation Board study, Defense Science Board study and the Defense Business Board on 5G will factor into the strategy.

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

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